Sparing not one moment for Tamaki Amajiki AKA Suneater, who promptly collapses to the floor at the start of this episode after the exertion needed for his fantastic fight last week, My Hero Academia 4 episode 9 continues to barrel straight ahead and towards one of this arc’s most highly-anticipated moments – the reveal of Kirishima Eijirou AKA Red Riot’s ‘Origin’ and backstory.
But in order for that to occur, Kirishima needed to be swept away along with Fat Gum as they both tried to save Shota Aizawa AKA Eraser Head from an enemy attack. So I’ll just take this moment to commend Studio BONES for their continued tasteful use of 3DCG to animate the corridors of the Shie Hassaikai headquarters; a technique that allows them to swoop the camera to and fro with relative ease, while also allowing for a high degree of consistency when one of Overhaul’s ‘Eight Bullets’ is shapeshifting and transforming the scenery as a result.
Anime-only viewers should also note the interesting scene between Bubble Girl and some felled Shie Hassaikai minions which reveals the fact that the yakuza group might not be so united behind their young leader Chisaki, after all.
Spear and Shield
Nevertheless, the fight between two of the Eight Bullets, Kirishima and Fat Gum was undoubtedly the true highlight of My Hero Academia 4 episode 9. That’s due in part to the fantastic efforts of all of the animators involved with some of the fight’s most impactful moments, the majority of which remain unfortunately unidentified. At least we know that Kouki Fujimoto is doing God’s work, however.
Big props should also go to Yuki Hayashi, who is continuing his good streak from last week in terms of music and the original soundtrack. Not only do we get to hear Overhaul’s incredible flute-laden trap-inspired theme when the going gets bad for the first time since episode 2 (if my memory serves me correctly), but then we also get a new composition, most likely a Red Riot theme, when our heroes begin to regain the upper hand. So effective is this composition that it brought me out in goosebumps when it played for the first time – for real.
But, ironically, perhaps Studio BONES’ best musical choice for My Hero Academia 4 episode 9 was when they made the bold choice to cut all sound entirely when Kirishima’s spirit broke for just one second, despairing at his own powerlessness and inability to learn from previous mistakes.
This gets across so well the very real feeling of failure and despair that had me and so many others blown away by this fight when it was published over chapters 142, 143, 144 and 145 of the original manga. It also mirrors a similar moment in episode 6, indicating that this is a conscious strategy on the studio’s part.
Speaking of the original manga, the studio has taken some interesting decisions when it comes to the structure of My Hero Academia 4 episode 9 and how it diverts from Kohei Horikoshi’s original story, as it moves to address problems that I didn’t even realize existed at the time.
Essentially, the studio chose to move the placement of chapter 143 and 144’s Kirishima backstory to before the young hero regains his resolve and moves to act as Fat Gum’s shield, instead of flashing back once this has all played out.
Honestly, My Hero Academia 4 episode 9’s approach makes a lot more sense and makes Horikoshi’s handling of the entire sequence look downright clumsy in comparison. It does, after all, make a lot more sense for the flashback to occur at the point it did during the anime as it is by reflecting on his past that Kirishima is able to summon his resolve once more – there’s a sense of narrative dissonance in the manga’s version of events that I honestly never picked up on before. That just goes to show how well Studio BONES have a hold on things!
Red Riot: Origin
In light of this more drastic change, it might be surprising to hear that the content of Kirishima’s backstory itself is kept largely the same from how it is presented in the original manga. There are a couple of tweaks here and there, mainly to help stitch together scenes more effectively, but nothing that’s worth exploring in too much detail. Oh, well I suppose that Crimson Riot doesn’t swear in the anime version.
Studio BONES’ approach isn’t a bad thing in this regard, as Kirishima’s backstory was already strong enough in terms of emotional resonance and the narrative needed to effectively communicate this in the original manga to, in turn, shine in the anime version and in My Hero Academia 4 episode 9 on its own merits. After all, we can all relate to how Kirishima struggles against his fearful instincts to become a better person in imitation of his idol Crimson Riot no matter which walk of life we come from.
It’s also nice to see a little bit of backstory for Mina in this segment, who has never been the most dramatic character but nevertheless one that has received little in the way of development in comparison with the rest of her classmates. Her scene also has some pretty effective animation from one Shino Kuzuhara.
Make no mistake, it is the combination of these two distinct elements – the fight alongside Fat Gum and the exploration of Kirishima’s past – that makes this entire clash so lauded. Indeed, this is the approach that Horikoshi nearly always takes in these ‘Origin’ fights, including the latest one featuring Hitoshi Shinso. In this sense, to see Studio BONES absolutely nail both elements is an absolute joy and My Hero Academia 4 episode 9 will surely go down as one of the best episodes of this season, if not of the series as a whole.
Before I finish up, I should like to mention the excellent work of Kazuyuki Okitsu in his role as Fat Gum. I haven’t mentioned him very much in my reviews of this series so far, but there couldn’t be a better episode to demonstrate how perfect Okitsu is as the BMI hero. Perhaps it’s just my weakness for Kansai-ben talking, but I could just listen to Okitsu in this role for hours – the tough warmth of his personality positively radiates through his voice and makes the fact that a large part of this episode is delivered through his internal monologue downright enjoyable.
So while ‘Red Riot’ seemingly wasn’t trending on Twitter as ‘Suneater’ was last week, it’s safe to say that My Hero Academia 4 episode 9 was pretty spectacular. And, having nailed this highly-anticipated moment, it’s only up from here on out.
You can watch My Hero Academia 4 episode 9 via Crunchyroll.